My mother is no more.The gut-wrenching sense of loss can neverb e conveyed through these three words. My mother,the source of my life, the root from which I sprung, whose mere presence gave colour and laughter to my life,is gone and with her is gone the little Rini in her red,silk frock,the slightly older Rini cycling down to St.Agnes wearing an uniform without belt(sister remarked,Sulekha, you look like a baker)Rini in college ,confiding to MA-they are all gone into oblivion.Rini,as she was,in her childhood,does not exist any more for she had been etched in the memory of her father and mother and with t hem gone Rini is gone too.
Small cameoes,as gathered from reminescences , remain etched in mind.When Ma was in class four, one of her classmates,Dulu Rani got married. Ma was driven in a Whippet car by her father to the wedding and her gift was an embroidery kit in a blue velvet box. It was this same Dulu Rani who wiped off blood from my mother’s head when she was throwing stones and hurt herself.. Ma joined Bangla Bazar school and later Kamurennesa school .Another cameo which is my favourite is of Ma as a small girl in a slip bowing in front of an ustad who would come to give lessons to one of her uncles and saying ‘Ustadji, adab. adab’.
My mother was born in Dhaka, now in Bangladesh, to a family of zamindars. She did not grow up in the ‘lap of luxury’ as such for there were several contenders to the estate but on the whole it was an ambience of financial well-being. As a school-girl she would everyday buy one Nestle chocolate. Along with each chocolate came a poster of famous film-star,which was her main attraction. Later,when she was in college, her taste became more expensive. In those days there was a family goldsmith who came every month. Of her five sisters my mother was the only one to get new ornaments made every month, dangling ear-rings mostly. For her marriage she embroidered about fifty blouses and much later when macaular degenaration had robbed her much of her eye-sight, she embroidered her pillow-cases ,table-cloths, legacy of a by-gone ,gracious era.
As a girl I never had much time for my mother. She was around, that was enough for me. Today, as she sits in her chair,head slightly bent,sightless eyes staring ahead,her left side immobilised by a stroke,tired in spirit yet unbeaten,she is still there for me.I still draw strength and solace from the frail,withered figure;whether it is my frustration at my daughter’s refusal to marry or dissatisfaction with my husband or some health problem-I pour it all to her; ‘Ma’ I begin and oh! the blessedness of it- to be able to call her out aloud,to hear her reply,however brief,to feel the roots of this life of mine hold me firmly in their grasp.I love you Ma.